Special Tribunal for the Punishment of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine?

Representatives from Ukraine will speak at public event hosted by Freie Universität Berlin

Since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the international community has been voicing calls to establish a special tribunal to prosecute the individuals responsible for this crime of aggression. The organization of such a tribunal will be the subject of a public event, held on December 1, 2022, at 6:15 p.m. in the Henry Ford Building, Freie Universität Berlin. Speakers at the event will include Ukrainian government officials, civil society members, and experts from the world of academia. Andriy Smirnov, deputy head of office of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has provided a video message for the event. The event is open to the public, however those wishing to attend must register in advance.

Since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation in February 2022, the international community has been seeking ways to hold Russia accountable for its various breaches of international law. While the International Criminal Court does have the jurisdiction to prosecute the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes occurring in this conflict on Ukrainian territory, it cannot exercise jurisdiction for the crime of aggression. This has led to calls to establish a special tribunal to prosecute the individuals responsible for this crime of aggression, with such calls reflecting the legacy of the International Military Tribunal held in Nuremberg from 1945-1946, the first international trial of its kind.

While the first suggestions in this direction were put forward by a group of lawyers, politicians, and intellectuals assembled by international law specialist Philippe Sands, this suggestion has now gained diplomatic traction. These calls have also been supported by the Ukrainian government, as well as a number of other states and the European Parliament. At the same time, establishing such a tribunal is no easy feat. There are a series of practical and legal challenges that must first be addressed.

The public event, which will take place at Freie Universität Berlin, seeks to provide a forum for a critical and reflective discussion of these issues.

International law specialist and professor at Freie Universität Dr. Helmut Aust says, "The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine raises many questions with regard to international law. Here, the criminal liability of the individual perpetrators is one of the main aspects to be taken into consideration. However, with regard to the public debate in Germany, it is important that we discuss these legal questions in a constructive and critical manner."

The event will include presentations by Ukrainian government officials and members of civil society, as well as contributions from academics in the field. The welcome address will be held by president of Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Günter M. Ziegler. Among those expected to attend are: human rights lawyer and Ukrainian politician Anton Korynevych; head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly and Ukrainian member of parliament Maria Mezentseva; Oleksandra Drik from the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year; and legal scholar Professor Christian Tomuschat from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Professor Helmut Aust from Freie Universität Berlin will moderate the event. The audience is encouraged to ask questions and take part in the debate.